Gagan Biyani – Online Education Entrepreneur

Internet has impacted every aspect of human life. Education is no different. In fact, internet has revolutionized education completely. Many experts believe that the era of traditional classrooms and heavy books may soon come to an end. Apart from the online degree programs offered by universities and colleges across the globe, many educators and entrepreneurs are creating online platforms to help students and working professionals learn new skills from the comfort of their home or office. Most of these courses are free, others are offered at a low cost. While they do not give you credits or official degrees, some instructors may offer a certificate of completion. Udemy is one of the top online education websites which hopes to democratize education by allowing everyone to learn or teach any course.

Gagan Biyani is the co-founder and President of Udemy. He was raised in Bay Area, California.  He started a summer speech and debate class during high school to make more than $300,000 before completing high school. He graduated with a degree in economics from University of Berkley in three years. After his graduation, he moved to Washington D.C. to pick up a job in tech giant Accenture. He contributed to TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. He also joined the Founder’s Institute, where he met Eren Bali. Bali has just emigrated from Turkey and was looking to create an online education portal. Bali’s idea and enthusiasm inspired Biyani to move back to Silicon Valley. Over the next few years, he met hundreds of engineers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to develop a strong professional network. They created a plan for Udemy and started looking for someone to fund their project. They were rejected as many as 30 times during the process.

In May 2010, Udemy was launched without any funding. Within two months, the online education portal had 2,000 courses and 10,000 registered students. Biyani and Bali went back to investors. This time they were able to acquire one million dollars within one week. Biyani and Bali used the funds to create a platform where instructors and educators could create courses by uploading videos, PDF files, Power Point presentations and audio files. They could also create a discussion forum to directly interact with the students. Students can enroll and complete courses in a wide variety of fields including computer science, math, healthcare and arts.

Most of the courses offered by Udemy were initially free. Biyani and Bali launched the “paid course” platform in December 2010 to attract quality educators across the world. Instructors receive 70 percent of all the revenue generated from course sales. Instructors selling their courses through Udemy receive 85 percent of the revenue. The company has paid more than one million dollars to faculty members over the past two years. The portal has launched more than 6,000 courses since its launch in 2010 with over 70,000 lecture views per month.

Biyani has big plans for Udemy in future. His team has raised more than 3 million dollars in August 2011 for future products. Since its inception, he has played the chief role in business development, partner marketing, investor relations and corporate operations. His hard work has established strong relationship between Udemy and its angel investors such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Zynga, and SlideShare.